Full credit to finalists Michele Lee Ahye, Kelly Ann Baptiste and Machel Cedenio, as well as our 4x100 ladies and 4x400 men’s team, which brought home medals from the World Championships in Beijing.
But we learnt one thing. There is a lot of work to be done ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics. Getting to the finals is a step in the right direction. It acts as a catalyst for the athlete, coach and management team to assess what needs to be done to turn finalists into medalists.
Cedenio, at 19, was seventh and can only improve with proper guidance. He will recall that earlier this year, he beat La Shawn Merritt but the American placed second in the final in a personal best time, ensuring that he was at his best for the Championships.
Next year will be similar but the rivalry becomes even more significant because it is the Olympic Games.
We must hope that the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA) works with the athletes for the future. Everyone needs to share a common goal. While some of these athletes will have managers with different mindset, the NAAA and the athlete must sit with the coaches and managers and set a clear pathway.
After the manager’s report on the World Championships is completed and addressed, a meeting should be called as soon as possible. If the NAAA have to travel to meet the athlete and their team outside of T&T, this must be a priority. I would suggest a team of three or four from the NAAA, comprising of highly influential and respected persons such as the president, Ephraim Serrette, and members such as Hasely Crawford, Dr Ian Hypolite and Dexter Voisin.
My other concern remains Keshorn Walcott, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist who failed to progress out of the first round. The most disturbing aspect is that this is the second World Championships where Walcott has struggled. His conqueror Kenya’s Julius Vego in 2012 finished 12th in the Olympic final.
At the press conference for the 2012 final, I recall that the first three were on stage and a number of questions were thrown by the Kenyan contingent, asking for tips on how to improve their thrower. This was a novel event for the Kenyans and you could see they were attempting to acquire as much knowledge as possible. To their credit, their athlete improved tremendously, not only throwing in excess of 92 metres but he is also the reigning Commonwealth Champion, where he also beat Walcott.
Unless Walcott does something quickly, he may find himself having to play second fiddle to the consistent Yego.
Walcott’s first throw was his longest but sadly he lost his balance and overstepped and so it was considered a foul throw and he nevered recovered. Similarly on Yego’s first throw, he fell and it was also declared null and void but he recovered to make the final and then a few days later regained his composure to win.
Walcott will have to examine his training regime. He cannot expect to gain in this country and must travel to Europe and get match fit and ready. As good as his local coach is, there is nothing to beat experience. I also believe that because of early success, Walcott needs guidance and counseling and if it is that he cannot or will not listen to the NAAA, then another avenue has to be sought. The Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis is very athlete driven and focused and I am certain he will ensure that a requisite team is put in place to assist some of the obvious needs of Walcott.
I believe that psychologist Dr Margaret Ottley should be hired immediately and brought home for the next ten to 12 months to work with as many athletes as possible in time for Rio.
Talent alone will not do it, we have to have the mental and emotional strength to go with it.
Without a doubt, our men’s 4x400 metres relay team can win gold in Rio. This current team of Renny Quow, La Londe Gordon, Deon Lendore, Machel Cedenio and Jarrin Solomon can reap success.
Once Jehue Gordon is fully recovered from his latest injury and with his studies completed, 2016 should be a strong year for him. His event was one of the few where the times were not as good as when he won in Moscow, which augurs well for him.
It was good to see the NAAA taking the bold step of incorporating some of our former athletes into their system. We have seen Niconnor Alexander getting involved and most recently Ato Boldon with the women's relay team. This group can become a long term core for success and with the leadership of Baptiste and the likes of Lee Ahye, Hackett, Thomas, Khalifa St Fort and Kamira Durant, there is a lot to smile about.
It looks promising, but as most men know, looks are sometimes deceiving.